How Tanfeeth “revolutionised” its approach to HR data

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 11 Nov 2015

Dubai-based outsourcer explains how a “single source of truth” is generating genuine business insight

It has been an extraordinary business success story since its formation in 2011, but Dubai-based outsourcing giant Tanfeeth knew it was lacking in one area – a clear handle on its people numbers.
 
“A business like ours can only drive value through its people,” Giovanni Everduin, head of strategic HR, communications and change, told the CIPD annual conference in the UK last week, as he outlined how Tanfeeth had become an exemplar in the field of human capital metrics from decidedly humble beginnings.
 
“We say people are our most valuable asset, but if that’s true then understanding and getting the best from them is key. We didn’t know why they joined us, why they stayed or why they left. We needed data… and then we needed to move from having data to having insight.”
 
Tanfeeth was spun out of Emirates NBD, the UAE’s largest bank, and provides business process and support services to a huge range of firms across the region. But, as Everduin explained, its rapid growth meant the way it reported on its 2,300 employees was relatively unevolved: “We wanted to stop being short-term in the way we thought about value… to move beyond financial measures of value to a more robust measure, using human capital data.”
 
Everduin oversaw a huge data cleansing process and a rationalisation of both inputs and outputs. The aim was to create “one massive HR database that is a single source of truth – it means that, even if we’re wrong, we’re consistently wrong”. Today, Tanfeeth operates a cloud-based system that can be accessed by anyone in HR, rather than the previous handful of dedicated HR data analysts. Crucially, this means answers to questions from the leadership team can be provided instantly, rather than relying on regular, reactive reports.
 
This helps when it comes to the big questions, said Everduin. “We’re moving away from looking at attrition as a headline number. I don’t care if it’s 23 per cent or 24 per cent – I care about what’s happening in certain key areas of the business.” Using his sophisticated analytics, Everduin can zoom in on specific parts of the business, job roles and tenures to observe nuanced attrition trends. And with “visualisation” techniques, he can immediately see the implications of OD interventions (such as restructuring or merging certain divisions) for cost, headcount and engagement levels.
 
Tanfeeth is now experimenting with using machine learning capabilities to deploy a ‘language cube’ that examines terms recorded from exit interviews to identify recurring themes.
 
But Everduin warned that introducing a more widely distributed system of people metrics isn’t without its challenges: “For us, it has been revolutionary. And when you show people in the business what it can do, they say ‘what took you so long?’ But it’s an uphill battle – not just dealing with external stakeholders and cleaning the data but persuading people in HR that they no longer have control over that data. Controlling data gave them some degree of power they didn’t want to let go of.”